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Overcoming Toxic People

Ways Narcissistic Bosses Destroy Morale

Nine Ways Narcissistic Bosses Destroy Morale

Working under a narcissistic boss is always a trial. Research has shown that while managers are more likely to be narcissists than the general population, teams run by narcissists tend to be less effective. Here are nine ways that a narcissistic boss is sabotaging your team’s effectiveness and morale.

Narcissistic Bosses Hold Back High Performers

Narcissists take pride in being the best at what they do and will defend their title at other team members’ expense. They have no problem diminishing their subordinates’ effectiveness so long as they feel it makes them look comparatively good.

Because of the Pareto distribution, which has shown that 80% percent of an organization’s effectiveness comes from 20% of employees who are high performers, holding back the best in the team has huge negative consequence for the success of the team as a whole.

In the short term, this leads to demoralization: high performers feel oppressed, team members feel like the company is failing, and management begins to see reduced performance. Over time this behavior leads the most successful employees to find employment elsewhere, being replaced by individuals who are content to kiss the boots of narcissistic management.

Motivated employees of narcissistic bosses should read “How to Overcome a Narcissistic Boss” to learn how to thrive in a toxic team and eventually overcome a narcissistic boss.

Toxic Bosses Stifle Creativity

One fundamental element of narcissism as a disease is the compulsion to project personal failures onto other people. I had personally experienced this with a narcissistic boss who always had to have a scapegoat to blame when inevitable problems arose.

In most cases, the blame fell on anyone who proposed new and innovative ideas. It became the foundation of the team dynamic that if anything failed for any reason, whoever had suggested the idea would be raked over the coals and might even be fired.

This retaliatory environment meant most employees just did what they were told, never exposed problems they saw or suggested solutions. At most, they would parrot back ideas suggested by the narcissistic boss if pushed for “innovation.”

All of this is a form of abuse that ossifies and saps a team of its vitality and competitive spirit. Dooming such an organization to fall behind and fail eventually.

Narcissistic bosses will hold long and wasteful meetings just for the rush of being the center of attention. In these meetings, they may play psychological games with their subordinates, fish for compliments, and tell lengthy stories to brag about themselves.

Other toxic bosses will take credit for the work of their subordinates without giving due credit. They may even claim their subordinates’ successes as their own, stealing others’ ideas and accomplishments.

All of this reduces team morale by instilling the sense that the accomplishments of employees are never recognized. And that doing the best for the company serves only to aggrandize a toxic boss.

Narcissism Leads to an Overly Competitive Work Environment

With a narcissist in charge, everything became a needless competition.

I’ve seen narcissistic bosses assign the same menial task to five team members and demand they compete to see who could accomplish the job the “best.” Of course, what constituted best was not explained beforehand but would be decided on at the boss’s whim as he was judging the work.

Knowing that everything you do will be judged and compared to coworkers, with your career and future employment at stake, cohesive teams which used to support each other fall into a dog-eat-dog mentality where employees fight each other to get ahead.

Bad Bosses Destroy Trust and Teamwork

Narcissistic bosses are known to spread rumors about employees as a way of asserting control. Endless lies and misrepresentation on the part of a toxic manager slowly erode team trust.

See the following for more details on how narcissistic bosses accomplish this:

Often narcissistic bosses will discourage personal association at work. If they can, they may even restrict all communication to flow through them and prevent any communication between employees at all.

I once worked for a narcissistic boss who proposed to place his entire office team in individual disconnected sheds, who would only communicate with each other during meetings presided over by the boss himself.

Narcissistic Bosses Never Grow from Constructive Feedback

When working for a narcissistic boss, trying to make any critical improvements seems, and often is, futile. Narcissists do not respond well to any form of criticism or feedback, no matter how constructive or gentle. It takes an experienced hand many long hours to convince a narcissist boss to improve how they manage their team, and, even then, improvements are often not permanent.

A Narcissist Takes Team Successes and Failures Too Personally

While a boss is the captain of their ship and ultimately responsible for it’s success or failure, narcissistic bosses take individual successes and failures personally.

When something goes right, they internalize it as a reflection of their abilities. And, when things go wrong, they see it as an insult or an attempt by their employees to hurt them directly.

This makes narcissistic management too brittle and afraid of failure to succeed in many business ventures. They become addicted to short term success and sacrifice long term growth and profitability. It also leads bosses to punish their subordinates too strongly for failure, destroying team morale and resilience.

Narcissists Make Terrible Mentors

The hallmark of effective leadership is getting the best out of your subordinates. Unfortunately, narcissists make terrible mentors.

Narcissistic managers see their employees as a threat and fear that they may eventually outshine them. So a narcissist will find ways for them to fail. They will withhold essential information.

Without an active commitment from management to grow their team’s abilities, individuals will start to feel locked in a rut or even as failures. This utterly destroys team morale.